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Vanilla and White Chocolate Fun Cake

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Here’s one from the vault – a simple vanilla and white chocolate cake pimped with some hundreds and thousands or sprinkles.

Usually these are just used as decoration on the icing on top of the cake, but I folded a few through the cake batter too – for a bit more fun!

This is a beautiful moist butter cake with a rich vanilla and white chocolate flavour. It is a colourful cake with hundreds and thousands baked into the mixture and sprinkled on top.

Lots of butter cream icing flavoured with vanilla paste makes it really yummy!

Butter Cake

Ingredients

250 gms butter softened

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups caster sugar

3 eggs

2 1/4 cups self-raising flour

3/4 cup milk

100 gms white chocolate, melted

A handful to taste of hundreds and thousands

Method

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C or 160 degrees C fan-forced. Grease and line a 22 cm round cake tin.

Beat butter, extract and sugar in a food processor until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Stir in flour and milk in 2 batches.  Stir in melted white chocolate. Gently mix in hundreds and thousands.

Spread mixture into the tin. Bake about 1 hour, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of  cake comes out clean. Stand in cake tin until cake is cool. Turn out onto wire rack.

Butter Icing

3 tbls softened butter

Enough icing sugar to make a butter cream

1 tbs milk

1 tsp vanilla paste

2 tsps hundreds and thousands

Method

Cream butter with icing sugar, adding more icing sugar and the milk to make a smooth paste. Add vanilla paste.

The main thing is to add as much icing sugar sugar as is necessary to reach the required icing consistency that will be thick enough to stay on the cake but not too stiff.

Ice the cake, top and sides, and scatter hundreds and thousands on top of the cake.

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Poached Quince Tart



May 2020. Two months into isolation in the era of Covid 19. Things are looking a little brighter – Australia has some great statistics in dealing with the virus, and some restrictions are being lifted. I was very excited to be able to visit the wonderful Orange Grove Market the Saturday before last, the market opened again for fresh food. I’ll be there this Saturday, eager to pick up some lovely local  produce.

Autumn in Sydney means the start of the quince season, and I bought some beautiful quince the other day. With no particular recipe in mind, I just needed their heady perfume in the kitchen.
Of course I had to cook with them – I poached them to a deep, deep red ruby colour, in a sugar syrup and vanilla. I put half the poached quince into a short crust pastry tart, and I’ll be making a fabulous quince crumble/betty recipe with the rest this weekend.
Here’s the tart recipe. There’s no other filling apart from the quince – you could fill it first with a frangipane or creme patissiere, but I think pastry, quince and a good spoonful of cream or Greek yoghurt is sufficient.
Ingredients

Poached quince
2 quince

300g caster sugar

500ml water

Thinly peeled rind and juice of an orange

1 vanilla bean, split in half

1 tablespoon butter

Short Crust Pastry
250g plain flour

50g icing sugar

125g unsalted butter (cold)

Zest of half a lemon

1 free-range egg

Splash of milk

Method

Preheat oven to 120 degrees C. You will need a large casserole that you can put on the stove top and then transfer to the oven. A cast iron casserole is ideal.
Peel and core the quinces, reserving the peel and cores. Cut each quince into eighths, but don’t worry if you can’t cut neat slices – quinces are notoriously hard to manage!
Put the sugar, water, orange rind and vanilla bean into a large casserole on the stove top over a medium heat, and stir to dissolve sugar. Add the quince pieces. Cover the quinces with a cartouche, a circle of baking paper. Lay the peel and cores on top of the baking paper. Place the lid on the casserole and put in the pre-heated oven.
Bake until the quince is ruby red. This should take about 4-6 hours. You should check the quince after 3 hours to see if it is turning red. Remove the quince and strain and reserve the quince liquid. You can discard the peel and cores. Keep the vanilla bean, dry it and pop it in a jar of sugar to create vanilla flavoured sugar.

To make the pastry, sift the flour and icing sugar together, and put into the bowl of a food processor.   Add the cubed butter. Carefully pulse the flour, sugar and butter until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Pulse in the lemon zest.
Mix the egg and a splash of milk, and add this to the mixture, and pulse a few times until the dough comes together into a ball. If you’re having trouble, you can add some iced water, literally a drop or two at a time, to help form the dough into a ball. Be careful not to overwork the dough, as it will end up being tough.
Place a large piece of baking paper or cling film on your work surface. Tip the dough from the food processor onto the baking paper/cling film, and pat into a round. Cover the round with more paper/cling film and put in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest.
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C, or 170 degrees C fan forced. Remove the pastry from the fridge. Grease an 18cm (7inch) tart tin. A 20cm tin would work too, you would simply roll the pastry a little thinner.
The easiest way to roll out the pastry is between 2 sheets of baking paper. Put the pastry onto one sheet, cover with the other sheet, and using a rolling pin, roll into a round big enough to fit into your tart tin. Ease the rolled pastry into the tin.  Put the tin into the freezer for at least 30 minutes, to make sure the pastry is really cold.
Remove the tin from the freezer. Line the tin with baking paper, and fill with pie weights. Dried beans or rice will work just as well. Bake for 10 minutes, then carefully remove the paper and weights. Return the pastry to the oven and bake for further 5-10 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and cooked through. Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature.

To assemble the tart, carefully take the tart shell from the tin and place on a plate. Choose the nicest pieces of quince and arrange in the tart shell.
Put about 50mls of the reserved quince liquid into a saucepan with the tablespoon of butter, and cook until the butter is incorporated.
Spoon a little of this quince buttery liquid over the tart, which will give it a nice glaze. I scattered a few sprigs of my favourite herb, lemon thyme, over the tart. Serve with spoonfuls of the aforementioned cream or Greek yoghurt!

Giant Yorkshire Pudding with Smoked Salmon – Jamie Oliver

This is a recipe from Jamie Oliver that everyone loves to cook. I first posted it in 2014! The recipe is from Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals. I think it’s a perfect meal to cook up in isolationist times, as it requires very few ingredients. Also, while the Yorkshire pud is draped with lovely smoked salmon, you could just as easily serve it with ham, left over roast beef or lamb, even hunks of nice cheese. In other words, the pudding is a great base for whatever protein you fancy, plus salad veg!

Jamie’s original Yorkshire pudding is served with smoked salmon, char-grilled asparagus and baby beetroot, with a yoghurt sauce. When I made it, I added some char-grilled green beans.

Jamie cooks the Yorkshire pudding in an oven proof frying pan. I cooked mine in a cake tin, which actually worked really well. A casserole dish would be fine, too.

Ingredients

Yorkshire pudding
Olive oil
2 large eggs
150ml low fat milk
65g plain flour

180g smoked salmon
1 bunch of asparagus
A handful of green beans
Juice of ½ lemon
6 baby beetroot

Sauce
3 heaped tbsp fat-free natural yoghurt
1 heaped tsp horseradish or French mustard

Method

Preheat oven to 200 degrees C. Put 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium sized cake tin and place in the oven and heat till the oil is really hot.

Put the eggs into a blender or food processor, add the milk and flour, then blitz until smooth.

Carefully pour the batter into the hot cake tin and cook in the oven until golden (about 12 minutes). Don’t be tempted to open the oven door!

Trim the asparagus and beans and put dry on a hot char grill plate or barbecue, turning until nicely charred on all sides.

Drain and slice the beetroot, then place over some salad greens on a board or plate. Mix the yoghurt and horseradish or mustard in a bowl, then season to taste with salt.

Squeeze lemon juice over the asparagus and beans, add salt and pepper, and pile on the board or plate.

When the Yorkshire pudding is really high and puffed up, remove from the oven, slide it on to the board or plate and place the smoked salmon on top of the pudding. Delicious and different!

Minestrone – Jamie Oliver Keep Cooking and Carry On


Everyone is cooking up a storm as we spend a lot of time at home in isolation. Jamie Oliver is doing his bit with his fabulous series Keep Cooking and Carry On. 

I recently saw Jamie cook Minestrone from the series on an Instagram video, and “instantly” had to cook some too. The great thing about this recipe is that Jamie says use whatever is in your cupboard or fridge – don’t be afraid to chop and change ingredients!

So here’s Jamie’s recipe with my changes in italics. The link to Jamie’s original recipe is here.

Ingredients

4 rashers of higher-welfare smoked streaky bacon, optional

olive oil

1 clove of garlic

2 small onions

2 fresh bay leaves

2 carrots

2 sticks of celery

2 large handfuls of seasonal greens, such as savoy cabbage, curly kale, chard I used white cabbage and Swiss chard

1 vegetable stock cube1

1 x 400g tin of quality plum tomatoes

2 x 400g tins of beans, such as cannellini, butter, or mixed 
I used cannellini  and black eyed beans

100g dried pasta I used pappardelle and tricolour pasta

Parmesan cheese , to serve

extra virgin olive oil

Method

Put a large shallow casserole pan on a medium-high heat.

Finely slice the bacon, if using, and sprinkle into the pan with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, stirring occasionally while you prep your veg.

Peel and finely chop the garlic and onion, adding the garlic to the pan with the bay leaves as soon as the bacon turns golden, followed by the onions.

Trim and chop the carrots and celery into rough 1cm dice, adding to the pan as you go. Remove and finely chop any tough stalks from your greens and add to the pan. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring regularly, or until softened and caramelised.

Crumble in the stock cube, pour in the tinned tomatoes, breaking them up with your spoon, then add 1 tin’s worth of water.

Pour in the beans, juice and all, then add a pinch of sea salt and black pepper.

Shred your greens and sprinkle into the pan, top up with 600ml of boiling kettle water, then add the pasta. Cover and leave to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the pasta is just cooked and the soup has thickened to your liking.

Season the soup to your liking. Jamie serves with a granting of Parmesan cheese, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and basil leaves and sometimes a dollop of pesto.  I just went for the basil – that was all it needed for me.

A note: I love this soup because it’s so thick! You can vary the consistency by cooking a little less to retain more liquids, or, once cooked, thinning with a little water.

The soup, if it’s really thick could be served on toast or bread. I would definitely recommend sprinkling with Parmesan or a cheddar and putting under the griller for a substantial snack!


Cherry and Apricot Upside Down Cakes


Today I’m posting easy and delicious recipes for upside down cakes.  And they can be made with store cupboard ingredients!

I thought it would be good to give bakers, and particularly novice bakers, a simple recipe for a cake that uses basic ingredients, can be whipped up in a flash, with or without specialist equipment.

And don’t be put off by all the instructions – both cakes really are super easy!

I made two, a cherry almond upside down cake, and an apricot upside down cake. I made the cherry one first, then realised that not everyone has bottled cherries and ground almonds lying around in the pantry. But I figured that everyone has tinned or canned fruit like apricots – peaches or plums or pineapple are just as good – and ordinary flour, in the cupboard.

I make this cake in various forms all the time. The flour version is a basic cake mix that is good for cupcakes and bigger, iced or layered cakes. The almond version makes a frangipane cake, very moist and a perfect receptacle for fruit.

And putting the fruit on the bottom is genius – making a lovely, sticky, fruity topping.

I make the cakes in the food processor. It’s really simple and fast.  You could use a stand mixer, or hand held electric beaters. Or beat the old fashioned way with a spoon. So anyone can make these cakes, regardless of what kitchen equipment you have!

You will need an 18cm (7inch) cake tin. Bigger is fine, the cake will just be a little flatter.

Cherry Upside Down Cake

Ingredients
400g pitted cherries from a jar or tin/can*
150g butter
150g sugar
3 free range eggs
I teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla paste
1 teaspoon almond essence
125g ground almonds
1 tablespoon plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt

*A jar is about 670g, a tin/can is about 415g

Method
Preheat oven to 160 degrees C fan forced. Butter a 18cm/7 inch cake tin thoroughly, and place a circle of baking paper on the base of the tin.

Combine butter and sugar using a food processor/ electric mixer/spoon, with vanilla extract or paste and almond essence. Add eggs one at a time and mix well well. Don’t worry if the mixture looks a bit lumpy or curdled, it will come together once the almonds and flour are added.

Fold in the ground almonds, plain flour, baking powder and salt.

Drain the cherries from their juices, reserving the syrup. Place the cherries onto the baking paper in the tin. You can be artful and make a pattern, or just place them any old how.

Carefully spoon the mixture on top of the cherries into the tin. Smooth out the dollops, but don’t worry too much, the mixture will even out in the oven.

Bake for 45 minutes  – 1 hour, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted in the cake. This cakes takes a while to cook. Start checking at 45 minutes and take out of the oven once cooked. Cool in the tin 10 – 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the reserved syrup in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 3 or 4 minutes or until the liquid has reduced and is thick and syrupy.

Carefully turn the cake out onto a plate, and peel off the baking paper. The cake will now have a lovely cherry top! Spoon some of the reduced syrup over the cake, as much or little as you wish. Personally, I like it with lots of syrup and really gooey!

Apricot Upside Down Cake 

The recipe is pretty much the same, but I have written it again just to highlight the different ingredients and slightly different method.

Ingredients
400g apricot halves from a tin/can *
150g butter
150g sugar
3 free range eggs
I teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla paste
150g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt

*Peach slices, plum halves or pineapple rings will work well too, all from a tin/can

Method
Preheat oven to 160 degrees C fan forced. Butter a 18cm/7 inch cake tin thoroughly, and place a circle of baking paper on the base of the tin.

Combine butter and sugar using a food processor/ electric mixer/spoon, with vanilla extract or paste. Add eggs one at a time and mix well well. Don’t worry if the mixture looks a bit lumpy or curdled, it will come together once the flour is added.

Fold in the plain flour, baking powder and salt. Using only flour can mean a drier mixture, if the mixture is too stiff, loosen it with a tablespoon of milk.

Drain the apricots from their juices, reserving any syrup. Place the apricots onto the baking paper in the tin. You can be artful and make a pattern, or just place them any old how.

Carefully spoon the mixture on top of the apricots into the tin. Smooth out the dollops, but don’t worry too much, the mixture will even out in the oven.

Bake for 45 minutes  – 1 hour, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted in the cake. This cakes takes a while to cook. Start checking at 45 minutes and take out of the oven once cooked. Cool in the tin 10 – 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the reserved syrup in a small saucepan. If there is not enough syrup, add a tablespoon of apricot jam if you’ve got it, or honey or maple syrup. You really just want a sweet glaze to go over the cake! Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 3 or 4 minutes or until the liquid has reduced.

Carefully turn the cake out onto a plate, and peel off the baking paper. The cake will now have a lovely apricot top! Spoon some of the reduced syrup over the cake, as much or little as you wish, to give a delicious sticky glaze.

 

 

 

Anzac Biscuits 2020

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Anzac Day is tomorrow – 25 April 2020. The day is always marked, though tomorrow will be quite different, with marches and services not happening in Covid 19  times. Traditionally Anzac biscuits are baked and eaten around this date.

While the biscuits were made during World War One by women’s organisations in Australia, my reading has come up with a recipe for the biscuits that predate WW1. There is a fascinating article from The Cook and the Curator, at Sydney Living Museums, which describes a recipe from the early 1900s. The link to the article is here. One thing is definite, coconut is a later addition. Which suits me fine, as I am tired of the presence of coconut shreds and shards in biscuits, cakes and muesli!

“It is universally agreed that an Anzac biscuit is oat based, contains no eggs, and is made with melted butter rather than butter creamed with sugar.”

The first-known published recipe in Australia appeared as “Anzac Biscuits or Crispies” in the Melbourne Argus in 1920. New Zealand lays an earlier claim for an “Anzac Crispie” in the St Andrew’s Cookery Book, in 1919. The titles of both recipes seem to answer the big question – should an Anzac biscuit be crispy or chewy? Crispy obviously.

I’ve made a few Anzac biscuits over the years, and I rather like this recipe. It’s from “Better Homes and Gardens” May 2015, and purports to be similar to the original recipe, the ingredients being rolled oats, sugar, plain flour, butter, golden syrup or treacle, bi-carbonate of soda and boiling water.
Golden syrup makes lighter coloured biscuits, while treacle makes the biscuits darker. Both are yummy!

Ingredients

125g unsalted butter
2 tbsp golden syrup or treacle*
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tbsp boiling water
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup plain flour
¾ cup caster sugar

*Golden syrup is more traditional in Anzac biscuits, but treacle also works well, giving the biscuits a nuttier flavour and darker colour.

Method

Preheat oven to 150 degrees C. Line 4 oven trays with baking paper. Combine butter and golden syrup or treacle in a small saucepan and cook over a low heat until butter is melted. Add bicarb and water and whisk to combine. Remove from heat.

Combine rolled oats, flour and sugar in a large bowl, add butter mixture and beat until combined. Form into small balls and put on prepared trays, allowing space for spreading. Flatten slightly with a fork.

Bake for 18-20 minutes or until biscuits are golden. Cool the biscuits on the trays then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Shepherd’s Pie

Easter 2020 is over, and despite being in the era of Covid 19, we managed to celebrate Easter Day with the usual treats – hot cross buns, chocolate eggs and roast lamb for lunch.

So lamb for lunch means leftover lamb, and leftover lamb means shepherd’s pie, which is exactly what I made after Easter last week. I love shepherd’s pie, particularly if it’s made with leftover roast lamb, although I know it can be quite good too, made with lamb mince.

A few notes. I made my basic mixture in a large cast iron casserole pan on the stove top, which could then be transferred straight to the oven. If you don’t have one of these, you will need to use a frying pan for the stove top and then transfer the mixture to a large baking dish to go in the oven.

If you are using cold roast lamb, you will need to cut it up finely. I blitzed mine in the food processor which was a lot less labour intensive!

I mention in the Ingredients how to use leftover gravy for the stock. Using gravy gives a lovely flavour to the shepherd’s pie, plus it’s a great “no waste” thing to do.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

2-3 carrots, finely chopped (depending on size)

1 stick celery

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

A quantity of cold roast lamb, leg or shoulder, finely chopped, about 500g, or use the same quantity fresh minced lamb

2 tablespoons tomato paste

250ml stock, made from the remains of the gravy from the roast lamb, topped up with water, or use a liquid chicken or vegetable stock if using fresh mince*

125ml red wine

50ml Worcestershire sauce

1 fresh bay leaf

A few sprigs fresh rosemary

For the mashed potato topping:

8 medium desiree potatoes, peeled

250 ml full fat milk or enough milk to make a creamy mash

100gm softened butter

*The stock can be a mixture of liquids, the importance thing is to add something flavourful to the lamb. If you have leftover gravy, use that, topped up with water. I would suggest adding water anyway, even if you have a lot of gravy, to thin the gravy  a little. If you haven’t any gravy or are using lamb mince, ordinary stock is just fine.

Method

Put a large casserole pan or a frying pan on a medium heat on the stove top. Add the olive oil and heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic, and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are well softened. Add the chopped roast lamb or lamb mince and cook, stirring, to make sure all the meat is browned. Season to taste with sea salt and black pepper. Add the tomato paste to the casserole and mix. Add the stock mixture, wine and Worcestershire sauce, pop in the bay leaf and rosemary and stir well. Once the mixture is boiling, turn the heat to low and simmer until the mixture is reduced, this could be between 15-25 minutes. Be careful not to overdo it or the mixture could catch and you’ll end up with burnt bits on the bottom of the pan! Adjust seasoning if necessary.

To make the mashed potatoes, put the potatoes in a saucepan and cover with cold salted water. Bring to the boil over medium heat and cook until soft. Drain the potatoes well and put into a large bowl. Add the milk and butter and mash with a fork until smooth. Or, as I did, you can use a stick blender to get really smooth mash. Season with sea salt as necessary.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees C.

If you are using a casserole pan, you are ready to put this straight into the oven. If you used a frying pan for your lamb mixture, you will need to transfer this to a large baking dish. Spoon the mashed potato over the lamb mixture and with a fork, create a few “peaks” on top of the potato. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes or until the peaks of the mashed potato are just turning golden brown and the mixture is bubbling nicely!

Serve with a green salad and more Worcestershire sauce on the side. I admit to liking a good dash of tomato ketchup on my shepherd’s pie. Possibly sacrilege, but it works for me!

 

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